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McKeon Tears into Panetta following Criticism over Funding Levels

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  • May 13, 2012
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House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) forcefully defended the changes his panel made to the administration’s budget request in completing the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta criticized the House for flouting the spending caps imposed by last August’s Budget Control Act (BCA).

“In your criticism of my proposal for the department’s FY13 authorization bill, you are clearly operating under some misconceptions,” McKeon said at the outset of a four-page response he sent to Panetta on Friday.

McKeon said he was surprised that Panetta criticized the measure for exceeding the spending caps since the secretary had testified that the spending caps “take the Defense Department right to the razor’s edge.”

McKeon adds, “Contrary to your assertion yesterday, in proposing a defense budget that exceeds the BCA caps, the president himself acknowledges the BCA caps are too low to meet the core needs of the new defense strategy.”

At a Pentagon news briefing Thursday, Panetta accused the House of risking gridlock by adding several billion dollars to the president’s request, as the Senate is unlikely to accede to the higher spending level. Funding added for programs the department did not ask for will need to be offset by cuts in areas that could harm readiness, the secretary stressed.

“When Congress restores funds to protect particular constituencies that may not be critical to our national defense capabilities, then they risk upending the kind of careful balance that we’ve worked very hard to achieve, and it could harm our ability to pursue the high-priority investments that we think are essential to the force that we need for the 21st century,” Panetta said.

McKeon directly refuted that point, stating that the House Republicans’ budget identifies cuts in non-defense programs to accommodate increases in defense spending and comply with the overall BCA budget targets.

McKeon spends much of his response defending each of the “pet projects” the committee added, including the decision to reverse proposed cuts to the Air National Guard.

Read the story in the Hill.

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